LAS VEGAS, Nev. — One of the most visible differences in this season’s Mountain West tournament from years past has been the floor the games are being played on.
The league purchased the floor used in last year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Denver, which was already branded with mountains stained into the hardwood floor.
While there are some who have said they don’t care for the floor design — one common criticism has been plenty of “Mountain,” not enough “West” in the design — the overwhelming reaction to the league’s new court has been very positive.
Count Steve Alford and the New Mexico Lobos players among the fans.
“Other than just the design, the court is extremely nice,” Alford said. “There’s no dead spots. It’s a beautiful court. I think the guys really enjoyed it.”
In fact, Alford has high praise for almost every aspect of the running of this year’s tournament.
“The enhancements that have been made here at this tournament over the last six years have been very, very good,” Alford said. “It’s still Thomas & Mack Center (though), you’re not going convince me (otherwise) of that. But the enhancements the league has made in signage and banners, even back in the halls in trying to make it as neutral as possible, those things have been very positive.”
RICE ON NMSU: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels coach Dave Rice was a member of the 1990 UNLV team that New Mexico State beat in 1990 in the Pan American Center in Las Cruces when the Rebels were then ranked No. 7 in the country and boasted such future NBA talent as Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.
When told of how fondly many NMSU fans remember that game while sitting courtside scouting another team during the tournament, Rice laughed.
“Do they really?” Rice said. “I still remember Keith Hill hitting that shot.”
Hall banked in an off-balance jumper from about 20 feet out with less than 5 seconds remaining for the game-winner in the 83-82 contest.
After a few moments Rice, with a big smile, asked a reporter whether Aggies fans also remembered being down 30 points later that season to the same UNLV squad in Las Vegas.
NEW MEXICO TIES IN WAC: Across town from Friday night’s Mountain West semifinal were the Western Athletic Conference semifinals being played in the Orleans Arena.
In one of the two semifinals, Texas State played NMSU. Texas State is coached by Doug Davalos, the son of former UNM athletic director Rudy Davalos, and features senior center 6-foot-11 Matt Staff, who transferred off the Lobos during the 2009-10 season.
XAVIER ADAMS: UNM Class of 2014 recruit Xavier Adams, a 6-5, 195-pound combo guard from Alvarado, Texas, was named the District 7-3A MVP this week for his high school team. He was also named an all-state selection by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Adams, who in January gave a verbal commitment to play for the Lobos after a recruiting visit with his parents, averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds and three assists per game during his junior season in Texas.
NBA PRESENCE: The Mountain West had a record 45 NBA credential requests for this season’s league tournament.
Among those in attendance this week have been Pat Riley (Miami Heat) and Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics). Reggie Miller, the former Indiana Pacer and UCLA Bruins star who was controversially (in Indiana, anyway) drafted ahead of home-state hero Steve Alford in 1987, was sitting behind the Lobos bench Friday night wearing his journalist hat.
Miller will be part of the broadcast crew for CBS, calling today’s championship game.